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KPHO News Director on Jodi Arias Trial: ‘We Will Not Add to the Circus Atmosphere’

Michelle Donaldson, news director for Phoenix CBS affiliate KPHO, has written an open letter to viewers about the station’s plans for covering the upcoming verdict in the Jodi Arias murder trial.

“While we at CBS 5 pledge continuing and professional coverage of the jury’s decision,” wrote Donaldson. “We will not add to the circus atmosphere by putting up tents or stages or hiring actors.  We will not forget that at the heart of this case is a young man whose life was cut short and family members who grieve for him.”

>RELATED: TVNewser: As Jury Decides Jodi Arias’ Fate, HLN Continues to Rack Up the Ratings

Donaldson told TVSpy, “We’re not reinventing ourselves with this post.  It’s just that we rarely speak so frankly and directly with people about our approach to any particular story.” Her letter was posted to both the station website and its facebook page. You can read the entire text of the letter after the jump.

Arias’ trial is being deliberated at the Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix. ABC News.com describes the scene around the courthouse as almost circus-like with “fanatics who camp out…in the middle of the night to get into the show,” a cable network’s stage set up for daily broadcasts, and people seeking autographs from those involved in the trial.

Donaldson told TVSpy her station was still covering the trial, but added Arias case has enough in it to appeal to audiences without adding to the mix. “I feel strongly that the facts and testimony in this case are dramatic and shocking enough, without having to artificially create a drama around it.”

“Knowing these trials take on a life of their own is one thing,” added Donaldson. “However, watching actors play the role of jurors in primetime is frankly making me nauseated.  I do not believe we (the media as a collective) are adding to viewer understanding and education in general, and especially not in this particular case.”

Here’s the text of the letter Donaldson posted to the station website and facebook:

“The trial of Jodi Arias has attracted national attention.  The four months of testimony are finally over.  Now, a jury takes up the sobering task assigned to it by our American system of justice.  CBS 5 News has been humbled by the responsibility of covering this trial from gavel to gavel, cutting through the rhetoric to provide context and facts in relaying the key points of the case by the prosecution and defense.  Our county courthouse has been transformed into a spectacle.  Sound stages have been built and actors are playing the role of jurors on primetime television.  While we at CBS 5 pledge continuing and professional coverage of the jury’s decision, we will not add to the circus atmosphere by putting up tents or stages or hiring actors.  We will not forget that at the heart of this case is a young man whose life was cut short and family members who grieve for him.  A jury will decide whether the killing of Travis Alexander was murder, self-defense or something else.  We will not turn it into entertainment.  We recognize this trial is just one of the many stories weighing on the hearts and minds of the people in our community.  We will not lose focus in continuing to bring you the news of the day with stories that help to inform, empower and keep you safe. CBS 5 News believes that holding the powerful accountable means holding ourselves accountable for journalism that matters.  When the verdict does come down, you can count on CBS 5 to bring you the full story.  In the meantime, we will dedicate ourselves to honest, relevant journalism and Telling It Like It Is.”

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